Sci-Fi Junior High
John Martin & Scott Seegert
Jimmy Patterson Books/Little, Brown, 2017 302 pages
If starting junior high isn't bad enough, Kelvin Klosmo has to begin his first day not only at a new school, but one on the other side of the galaxy with an assortment of interesting species, all from many different planets. Kelvin's parents are important scientists who have been assigned to a far-flung space station to work on a super secret robot. Because his parents are geniuses, Kelvin's new classmates assume that he must be the smartest kid in the universe, a rumor which her, himself, started. Unfortunately, Kelvin is anything but, and starting at this new school is extra stressful because he is trying to hide his normalcy in the brains department. The same ship transporting Kelvin's family also transports the newest rookie janitor--a displaced evil scientist out to get revenge. Using robot technology, developed by Kelvin's parents, the evil scientist transfers his brain into his little sister's stuffed rabbit and, eventually, into the brain cavity of the developing robot. Meanwhile, Kelvin and his new pals break into his parent's lab with the help of the new family pet, who has the ability to duplicate anything it eats, to study the robot for a school project, ending up on a death-mission with the evil scientist/robot. Can Kelvin help his friends get out of this jam? Will he have to confess his mental inadequacies? Will this be the end for the gang, as they are lost in space with a limited amount of oxygen? And how can they get away from the evil scientist/robot? Help comes from unexpected places with the day being saved and a hint at a sequel.
James Patterson knows what kids like. All of his books for young people are enormously popular. He believes in working with other inspiring writers and launching their careers. Now he has established his own imprint through Little Brown, overseeing the release of titles sure to be enjoyed by even the most reluctant reader. Boys, especially, will tear through this initial selection. Is it the stuff of a future Newbery? Uh, no. But it will fly off the library shelves and be eagerly consumed by the target audience. A true graphic hybrid, cartoon-like illustrations grace practically every page and not only enhance the narrative, but help to move the story along. Sometimes the humor goes a bit low-brow, but it never gets too off-color. The action moves along at a brisk pace and the book reads quickly. The quirky characters are fun and interesting. There are a lot of new friends to meet at one time, but the creators thoughtfully place the speaking character's face before the text, indicating who is speaking, even if you can't remember their name. The parents are kind, supportive and quirky. They are very down-to-earth and will resemble other parents, except they are brilliant scientist on a space station. Kids will also relate to Kelvin and his dilemmas, even though the setting is in deep space. Perfect for kids graduating from Captain Underpants or Wimpy Kid/Big Nate fans looking for a new genre, yet not ready to jump into serious text. The plot is more than a bit implausible, but readers won't care and will clamor for the next installment.